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Featured Poet: Helen Oswald

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Helen Oswald (pictured) to these pages this Friday, one of the last of the short-lived British summer.  Oswald’s debut collection Learning Gravity, from Tall-Lighthouse, has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2010. Her earlier pamphlet, The Dark Skies Society, was published by Waterloo Press.  Her poems have appeared widely in anthologies and poetry magazines, including Poetry Review, The Rialto, Magma and Poetry London. She has received three commendations in the National Poetry Competition, is a past winner of the Arvon International and has won prizes in other competitions including the Bridport.


After training as a journalist, Helen went on to work as an editor at Amnesty International and then developed a career in the trade union movement. She is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and currently works from home in Brighton as a writer and editor.  I am excited to hear her read for Oxfam on September 29 in London.


Ordering Genes

We are what our grandparents ate.
Their choices from the cold store ordered my genes
so that a grapefruit dissected with the proper tool
and eaten by my grandma on the eve of war
accounts for this bitterness I sometimes feel.

And maybe that extra cow’s-lick of butter
churned from grandpa’s Irish herd,
scooped up on his initialled silver blade
passed down to my own cutlery drawer,
has marked me too; my slick, emollient tongue.

I have no children of my own
but today I select with care: mussels in their shells,
unscrubbed; hake, the deep sea gleam
still polished in its eye; tomatoes not yet ripe,
their stubborn grip on the vine.

poem by Helen Oswald
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The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

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Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand